Hand cutting wooden shark puzzle pieces eventually lead Marc Tschida to a face-to-face encounter with a live Great White.
For Tschida, it all began when he watched “Jaws” at too young of an age. The 1975 ocean thriller lead Tschida to a fear of sharks and open bodies of water — from the ocean to Lake Monroe. This fear eventually turned into fascination.
During his talk at The Venue Fine Arts & Gifts on Tuesday evening, “Face To Face With the Great White Shark,” the designer of hand-cut jigsaw puzzles discussed his business, Press Puzzles, and it allowed him to pursue his lifelong dream of cage diving with sharks.
Tschida isn’t originally from Bloomington, but he said it’s the place he has called home on-and-off for about 30 years. He has been involved in the arts scene in town for years, working with Lotus World Music and Arts Festival and running nightclubs. Tschida worked 10 years with Cardinal Stage Company, serving as managing director or production manager, until he left his job last November.
“For a guy who has no background in the arts, there are some amazing organizations up here and I am just thrilled to have been able to carve out a living and to now jump into my own business,” Tschida said.
Puzzle making was not an original part of his plan.
“I didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘I’m gonna start making jigsaw puzzles,’” Tschida said. “Over a couple of years, since I’ve lived in Bloomington so long, I really just ran out of unique gifts that spoke of the Bloomington community.”
To solve this problem, he started creating custom, Bloomington-themed puzzles. Each puzzle takes seven to 10 days to process. There are no templates or patterns — each puzzle is hand cut with a scroll saw by Tschida. This means puzzles with the same image on them still have different patterns and may have varying piece counts.
Tschida saw an opportunity to use his business to help him pursue his goal of cage diving.
“It really was just a pipe dream for many, many years," Tschida said. "Then, I decided to go ahead and try to make a shark-themed jigsaw puzzle and to sell a shark-themed jigsaw puzzle that specifically would be going to pay for this particular trip.”
The puzzle he sold had an image of the 1778 oil painting “Watson and the Shark” because Tschida thought it evokes the same feeling in people he said he felt when he watched “Jaws.” In addition, each puzzle Tschida creates has a signature piece. In many of his, it is a piece shaped like the state of Indiana. For the shark-themed puzzles, there were multiple signature pieces shaped like sharks.
On Aug. 9, 2015, he rented the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, got the film rights and showed the movie “Jaws” to kick off his campaign.
A little more than a year later, and after selling about 30 shark puzzles, Tschida was traveling to Guadalupe Island off the coast of Mexico.
Tschida spent two days of total travel time on the boat for three days of diving opportunity to be inches from Great White sharks in their natural habitat. He said the grace and beauty of the sharks was amazing. The sharks, which ranged from 10 to 18 feet in length, helped to ease his fears as well.
“They’re something really dangerous that need to be respected, but they aren’t waiting for me specifically to put my foot in the ocean," Tschida said.
The first night on the boat together in Mexico the divers all watched “Jaws.”